Affordable housing a big problem for Topeka’s growth

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A new study finds Topeka’s housing economy could be working against the Greater Topeka Partnership's efforts to attract young professionals.

More than one third of the people who work in Shawnee County don’t live here. The Partnership says it's an issue they must address.

“We don’t have enough housing,” said Brett Oetting, Vice President of the Greater Topeka Partnership.

As the Partnership works to bring in more people and jobs, they say the area needs more affordable housing options, especially for the younger generation.

“We need to make sure that we are able to accommodate them if we’re trying to get them to move back to Topeka,” Oetting emphasized.

Research presented Thursday at the Partnership’s Economic Outlook Conference found nearly 37% of people who work in Shawnee County, don’t live in the county. A majority travel from Douglas and Johnson Counties, where more housing options are available.

“If you have the jobs but you don’t have the housing, or they can’t find what they want then obviously they aren’t going to buy here,” said Linda Briden, CEO of Sunflower Association of Realtors.

The other issue is rentals. Many of the newer generation don’t want to buy a house.

“I’m not so sure they necessarily want to put down roots. I think they may like the flexibility of being able to move to Denver tomorrow if they feel like it,” Briden predicted.

“I know in the downtown area there’s a lot of people that are developing some apartments and trying to get some additional housing down there, but that’s not as much the case around the rest of the community and it’s something we’re really gonna take a hard look at,” Oetting explained.

He believes finding answers will take a group effort.

“We need to make sure that the whole community is working together on all these different issues and understanding that what each one us does affects the other,” Oetting stressed.

Briden also says housing development in the region has declined due to increased costs to build.